Section 5 - Storytelling and scenarios
A story about a story about a utopia and a dystopia (20 minutes)
OK, let's summarise.
We have argued that imagining the future can help design or evaluate today's technology. However, to be able to envision the future properly, it helps if you get all kinds of 'facts,' opinions and information, so that any prejudices are reformulated and there are fewer blind spots. That is why we have given you information about disappearing jobs, about the reasons why jobs do not disappear and about things related to them. This is by no means complete, but hopefully it will help.
We will test this in this section by asking you to sketch a dystopian and/or utopian scenario through storytelling.
In her book Ethical IT Innovation, Sarah Spiekermann, creates personas and she tells stories about these personas in an imagined future. This helps to envision the impact of a technology in a future and can inspire one to create a better technology now.
We begin with this inspiring video about storytelling by the people from Pixar (3 minutes):
So, when we tell a story we try to tell people how we feel. This means that telling a story about someone in the future is also about what you would like or not like to happen.
Another way is design fiction. As questions about technological choices trouble us more and more, it could be that design fiction, not science, has the better answers. The stories we tell ourselves about technology – typically, optimistic ones from would-be innovators, pessimistic ones from their critics – are usually too simple. Making them more complex can support a richer discussion about where a technology might be going, and the kind of futures it could open up.
That calls for a kind of realism in the depiction of technical possibilities that is inspiring a new cadre of practitioners of design fiction
That is why it can really be insightful to tell both stories. What would you really like to happen with the technology in the future (Utopian) and what would you really not like to happen in the future (Dystopian).
First, some background information on Utopia and Dystopia, because there is no simple difference between them. A video of six minutes:
The storytelling of these scenarios can give you insights into how to modify or evaluate a technology of today.
Let's give it a try.
Exercise - GigWallet
For this exercise we want to assess a new technology that is a blockchain-based system that enables Microwork. We explained this concept in crash course 7 section four. This (fictional) technology is called GigWallet.
If you download GigWallet and sign up, you can do all kinds of chores which are immediately paid through a blockchain system. GigWallet is an app that lives on your phone and you can find all kind of work in there. This work is connected to your skills, friends and location.
For example, a great piano player can give a child nearby a lesson. Automatically the piano player is automatically paid through the app. Some people are emptying garbage bins, others are installing sensors, driving people around, delivering food, mowing the lawn, teaching sports, giving inspirational speeches, cooking, offering massages, and so on.
GigWallet is the Uber for everything and it is completely run by code. There is no GigWallet company. Even the software is maintained and programmed by people being paid through GigWallet.
Use this PowerPoint template (CC10_Future for Dave_Exercise.pptx) to imagine a future for Dave in 2040 and try to use this scenario to find out what you think is a very important feature of GigWallet. Imagine a Utopian or Dystopian scenario (or both).
Download a potential answer here (CC10_Future for Dave_Exercise_Answered.pptx).
The above exercise was very brief and illustrative. The advantage of this was that it fits perfectly into the one-hour crash course. In a serious impact assessment of a technology, we recommend taking more time and making use of the intelligence of the group (for example, by brainstorming and discussing together).
Envisioning the future in a group can really help you to determine the impact of today's technology.
Take aways from section five:
- Storytelling helps to tell how you (want to) feel;
- Utopian and Dystopian scenarios provide insight into today's technology;
- However, what Utopia is to one is Dystopia to another.